Everyone knows I am a huge fan of Henri Nouwen; no secret there. Lately, I have been immersed in his writings on silence. Henri's book The Way of the Heart comes from a seminar he taught at Yale Divinity school where the subject matter was The Desert Fathers.
I have made a connection from Nouwen's work in regards to the poor in my own context.
Just like my heart, the hearts of the poor are seldom practicing, experiencing, or okay with silence.
"...silence is above all a quality of the heart that can stay with us even in our conversation with others (60)." A heart that practices silence can bring peace and stability to a life of chaos and unrest. Maybe Jesus speaks of this in John 16:33 "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world."? Perhaps Jesus is saying silence your heart. Outside of yourself there is not much you can control, but inside your heart, through silence, you can have peace.
Many people I have met from our community of poverty over the last two years have noticeably high levels of anxiety. And why shouldn't they? Especially, if you have a family to look after, not knowing where your next rent check or meal will come from is frightening.
As I bring tangible opportunities for relief and as I tell people about God's love and as I give people a place to belong, I will also teach them about silencing their hearts.
Because the task of ministers "...is the opposite of distraction. Our task is to help people concentrate on the real but often hidden event of God's active presence in their lives [and] how to keep people from being so busy that they can no longer hear the voice of God who speaks in silence (56)."